Improve Scapula Control

The scapula is one of the least congruent joints in the body. There is no bony articulation between the scapula and the thorax. This is why the scapula can move so easily, essentially it is a free floating bone that can move into protraction/retraction, elevation/depression, anterior tilt/posterior tilt, internal/external rotation and upward/downward rotation. This video will help you visualize scapula movements. We can not change the structure of this scapulothoracic joint,  however we can improve scapular control! Scapula position is almost fully determined by the pulling of muscle groups that attach onto the scapula. The scapula is the core of the upper body,  this is where force  comes in through and gets distributed out of. This article will demonstrate exercises that you can do on  your own  to  improve your scapula control.  

Improve Scapula Control

The shoulder is used during virtually all upper extremity motion. The scapula aka the shoulder blade is considered the base of the shoulder complex. A lack of scapula stability has been blamed as the cause of shoulder pain. Is dyskinesia an indicator of instability?  Is instability and indicator of potential risk of pain? many authors have looked into this. A review shows little to no correlation between movements described to be dysfunctional and shoulder pathology. It seems to be there is no “normal” movement of the shoulder,  deviations are simply part  of human variation.

Check out this article we wrote for more on this topic, Does SICK scapula = Pain?

The goal of this article  is  not to  improve scapula mechanics. The goal of this article is not to give  you exercises that are designed to be the meat of your workout. This article will demonstrate exercises that you can use on a daily basis to activate the intended muscles. The following exercises can be used as a warmup prior to your lifting session. These exercises will  show  you how to engage your scapula retractors prior to rowing or activating your Serratus Anterior and rotator cuff muscles prior to bench pressing.


Shoulder  Rotations

HOW: Rotate your shoulder from internal to external rotation and repeat. When in external rotation, think about scooping back your shoulder blades while attempting to point your thumbs towards the floor. When internally  rotation allow your shoulder blades to come up and forward while thinking about bringing your pinky up towards the ceiling.

COMPENSATION: Avoid arching your low back as your rotate your arms externally or backwards.

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Improve Scapula Control

Your scapula aka your shoulder blade is often very difficult for people to find. If you don’t initiate movements like rows or pull-ups from the scapula = you will “arm” the movement. Meaning you will rely heavily on shoulder and arm muscles. Your scapula is able to handle more load than your arm muscles. With any movement you want to move proximally to distally, the scapula should initiate the motion when performing a movement like the Row, Lat Pull-Down, or when performing pull-ups. Shown here are a couple movements that will help improve scapula control. Realize that at First implementing this strategy may decrease your performance, however the potential to improve your performance increases. .

1️⃣start in open chain with your arms moving in space

2️⃣add a resistance band which will help give a resistance cue to target the scapula retractors (muscles that pull your shoulder blade back) -keep minimal elbow flexion here

3️⃣perform scapula pull-ups also with minimal elbow flexion


Scapula Clocks – Improve Scapula Control

HOW: Get set-up in a standing position with your hands by your side and arms straight. While maintaining arm position, slowly make big backward followed by forward circles with your shoulders and shoulder blades.

FEEL: This should feel like nice shoulder and shoulder blade movement. Think about making smooth, big circles in both directions. You should feel your shoulder blade muscles controlling the movement.

COMPENSATION: Keep the rest of your body including your head and neck still as you perform this exercise.


The Shoulder [P]Rehab Program is on our very own [P]Rehab app that is a 16-week long program to maximize your shoulder health for life. The program is for anyone looking to bulletproof their shoulders for life! Whether you’re an average Joe, fit Fiona, weekend warrior, athlete, or superhero parent, you can benefit from this program. We make it easy and teach you how to strengthen your shoulders and keep them healthy for anything life throws at you. Learn more here!


Scapula clocks with Arms Elevated

With this variation, keep your arms in a 90 degree position, where your hands are directly in front of your shoulders. Now make big circles forwards and backwards.

Single Arm Scapula Pushup On Elevated Surface

For this exercise find an elevated surface to one arm on. In a high plank position keeping your body in line (feet up to shoulders). Allow the scapula to sag then push the scapula away from you pushing your chest away from the floor. Return back to starting position and repeat. Avoid moving at the elbows as you perform this exercise. Make sure the motion is coming from your shoulder blade. Looking for more Serratus Anterior strengthening exercises? Check this article out.


Learn More Exercises To Improve Scapula Control?

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